In pursuit of that elusive ingredient called ‘confidence’

Women Leadership

I received an overwhelming response to the inaugural column of GROW on SheThePeople.TV – thank you all so much.  I also received a number of questions, the most common being, ‘How do I develop the confidence to do the things I want to do? I seem to have lost it…’  So this column is dedicated to exactly this topic: how do we ‘GROW’ confidence?

Vandana Saxena Poria
To look at confidence, let’s start at the beginning of our lives.  It’s interesting when we observe babies – they explore everything, having no idea about what to touch and what not to touch.  It is through a process of trial and error (or over-protective parenting!) that they discover what is ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’.  As the babies grow into children, they learn to make decisions based on experiences they go through themselves and further, they are taught by others ‘you can do this, you can’t do this.’  Over time, these decisions become ‘rules’ in their heads.

All of a sudden, we are adults and we have ‘rules’ about what we can do and what we can’t do, and what we are capable of, or not capable of.  Associated with these rules, we have also made up consequences for ourselves, ‘If do this, then this will happen’.  So for example, ‘If I apply for that job, then I will be exposed and could look a fool as I don’t have detailed knowledge in that area’.  And eventually, we start putting a ring around what we are willing to do and what we are not willing to do.  Everything inside the ring is known as our ‘comfort zone’.  Because we know how to do those things, and we are comfortable doing those things.

Growth comes outside your comfort zone

Growth comes outside your comfort zone

BUT, confidence doesn’t come from doing the things we are comfortable with.  It may help us initially, however, over time, we will find that anything outside our comfort zone starts to sub-consciously scare us.  And for women who have spent a lot of time at home, perhaps after marriage or raising children, their comfort zone is the four walls of the house.  The thought of working again scares them as they have forgotten what that was like and don’t feel they have the skills any more to tackle that job.

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So what do you do to build up your confidence again?  Simple:  Go outside your comfort zone!  That’s all.  Every time, you do something outside your comfort zone, whether big or small, it WILL make a difference.  You will feel a thrill, a buzz and some form of satisfaction that you did it.  Why?  Because growth comes out of you doing something that you don’t think you can do – it could be some task that you cannot face, dealing with some person who intimidates you, doing something that you know upsets you.  TAKE IT ON!

Tips comfort zone
I remember as a child, I had asthma.  In those days (in the seventies), I was told I could not play sports as I would have to run and that would make my asthma worse.  That suited me as I was convinced that I had no co-ordination abilities at all so I could be comfortable in saying ‘I have asthma and therefore I can’t do sports or running.’  And all through my life, I clung on to this.  To the extent that I wouldn’t even play ball with my kids, for the fear of dropping the ball and looking stupid.  Last year, I was challenged to take up running by a former student, who promised to train me.  I trusted him and took up the challenge.  The first day I couldn’t run more than 50m without panting heavily (yes very exaggerated – I had to prove to myself that I couldn’t do it, no??!!).  By the third session, I found I could do almost 300m.  I was shocked.  No asthma attacks either.  Within weeks I was running 3km and within 3 months I was running 10km.  I am now training for a 21km later this year.  This confidence also got me to pick up the ball and play with my kids.  To my surprise I found that I was not half as bad as I thought I was.  And I found out I was actually pretty good at bowling too.  So by taking on 1 area in my life where I completely lacked confidence, I found 3 areas that I could excel in.

So what are you waiting for – what are you going to do out of your comfort zone today?